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Otter Gives Final State of the State

Doug Nadvornick/Idaho Public Television

And now to Idaho Governor Butch Otter’s State of the State address Monday in Boise.

“My friends, I say again, Idaho is stronger and more economically diverse than ever. Our unemployment rate is near a record low. Wages are on the rise. Whole industry sectors are emerging and growing, stretching our taxpayer resources to keep up with workforce demands. We are sustainably and responsibly investing K-through-12 career education and training without raising taxes,” Otter said.

The governor focused much of his speech on education initiatives. He proposed money to continue to increase teacher salaries, the fourth year of his five-year ‘career ladder’ initiative. And he urged lawmakers to adopt the recommendations of a task force looking at changes in Idaho’s higher education system. One of the goals of that group is to move 60% of the state’s high school graduates into some form of higher education.

“The task force concluded that we will never achieve the 60% goal the way higher education in Idaho is structured today. So its 12 recommendations focus on dramatically changing the way that our system works to make it more integrated, consolidated and student-centric," Otter said.

The governor is asking lawmakers to allow the state to hire an executive officer to oversee Idaho’s community colleges and universities.

“I want to emphasize that we’re not talking about a chancellor system here with schools becoming campuses of a single university. I agree with the task force finding that such a change would be overly disruptive," Otter said. "But there’s no doubt about the advantages and the necessity of adopting an executive officer model if we are serious about making and keeping Idaho economically competitive.”

Otter proposed to take a step to lower unemployment insurance costs for businesses. He would reverse a rate increase that took effect the first of this year. He says it would save businesses more than $100 million during the next three years.

The governor asked the legislature to take action on a plan that would provide the poorest of the state’s citizens with health insurance.

“Simply put, it would stabilize Idaho’s health care insurance market and give more working Idaho families the ability to purchase affordable coverage," Otter said. "The Idaho Health Care Plan gives us the opportunity to be both conservative and compassionate. It will enable those with the mostly costly, complex medical conditions to move their coverage to Medicaid during the course of their illness. That, in turn, will enable insurance companies to reduce their premium rates for the majority of people who remain in the individual marketplace. This is not expanding Medicaid. This is providing Idaho families who have modest incomes, a more affordable way to get the coverage they need.”

Idaho Public Television provided the sound in this story.

For a reaction about the governor’s proposals for education, we called Kari Overall, the president of the Idaho Education Association.